With a new year beginning, most of us look back and evaluate how we can better ourselves. We make a list of resolutions: to diet or exercise, read our Bibles more, maybe even budget our finances. Whether we are successful or not, our lists are meant for long-term change. But long-term doesn’t really exist in the world of a preschooler. Anyone who has ridden in a car with preschoolers knows that an hour can seem like days to them. Instead, as leaders and parents, we can set goals for our little ones. Goals are short term “resolutions” that can lead to long-term benefits.
In my groups over the years, we’ve set in place many goals. Many, many goals. Some days bring more obstacles and the need for more goal setting than others. For example, one day close to the Christmas holidays, my children were bouncing off the walls with excitement. We just couldn’t get anything done! So I pulled out an empty container and a pouch of pom poms. Every child caught being good or following directions got to add a pom pom to the container. When the container was full, the group earned a special prize. The prize on tap for this day was something my kids all enjoy: parachute play.
You can set big goals and small goals for your group: learning the Memory Verse for the month, sharing, bringing a friend to church, simply showing good behavior. There are many different ways to go about encouraging and obtaining these goals. Children need visuals. They need to see the beginning, the end and all the steps in between that lead them to the “prize.”
One of the ways I have found to work toward a common goal has been a countdown chart. Each child has a name card and a number of spots to move to get to the prize. Another great visual is a “Go Fish” bowl. When you are caught doing something good, you are rewarded with a chance to “go fish” out a special privilege from the bowl—like sitting next to the teacher, being a special helper, and so forth.
Setting goals helps your kids grow and learn while maintaining a peaceful and fun environment. And while changing a habit for a whole year may be too much to ask of a three-year-old, you’d be surprised how these short-term goals can lead to long-term improvement.